NI Water CEO to pay 3% towards pension; taxpayers to pay 26%

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy  and former NI Water chief executive Trevor Haslett
Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy and former NI Water chief executive Trevor Haslett

Taxpayers will pay almost six times more what the new chief executive of Northern Ireland Water will pay into his pension pot, it has emerged.

The £150,000-a-year post, which has been advertised for the second time in less than a year, will see the holder make a pension contribution of £5,000 a year — but taxpayers will top that up with £40,000.

TUV leader Jim Allister said he was amazed that such a generous scheme had been agreed at time when the Assembly is supposedly moving to restrain the public sector’s already generous pensions.

Mr Allister called on UUP regional development minister Danny Kennedy to explain why taxpayers would have to contribute “a whopping 26.9 per cent” to the pension pot, while the individual who benefits will pay just 3.5 per cent.

He said: “I find it amazing that at a time when low paid public servants are being asked to contribute more to their pensions that this £150,000 post can be advertised with an annual pension contribution handshake from the public purse of £40,000 per annum, and the beneficiary is asked to contribute a mere 3.5 per cent of salary.

“Why is government not practising what it preaches on public pensions? Why is the CEO of NIW to get almost twice the average public sector wage paid into his or her pension pot each year by the hard pressed taxpayer?”

Controversy has long surrounded NI Water. Since its establishment in 2007, the government-owned company has had four chief executives.

Three years ago the then-boss, Laurence MacKenzie, left his £190,000-a-year (£8,000 of which was a car allowance) post after the Christmas big freeze fiasco where 450,000 people lost their water supplies.

Mr MacKenzie was succeeded by Trevor Haslett, who retired last year.

A spokesman for the Department of Regional Development (DRD) said the pension scheme “is outside of the remit of the current public sector pension reform process. However, as the company’s shareholder the DRD has requested that NI Water reviews its pension scheme arrangements in light of the wider public sector reforms.”

He said that after consultation the new scheme was expected to be in place by next April, and would cover both existing and new employees.